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NBC's Leno heads to CBS show to explain his "Tonight" feelings

By Alan Pergament

If you watched the CBS Sports coverage of undefeated Syracuse’s basketball win over Miami Saturday, you probably saw a promo for SU alum Steve Kroft’s interview with Jay Leno on “60 Minutes” tonight.

The promo asks "how does Jay Leno really feel about leaving 'The Tonight Show' after 22 years?"

All you need to know about how Leno feels about being replaced by Jimmy Fallon next month is revealed by his choice of where to do the interview.

He is going to CBS first tonight and then sitting down with Matt Lauer on “Today" Monday morning with Fallon.

You certainly would have thought that it would have been the other way around since Leno works for NBC even if he has a long interview relationship with Kroft.

In any event, the two networks sent to TV critics late last week what could be described as dueling press releases promoting their interviews.

One paragraph way down in the CBS copy explains how Leno really feels about losing his job to Fallon no matter what he tells Lauer Monday.

The release notes that Leno praised Fallon before adding: "It's not my decision and I think I probably would have stayed if we didn't have an extremely qualified, young guy ready to jump in.  [Jimmy Fallon] is probably more like a young Johnny [Carson] than almost anybody since. And he's really good. So you go with the new guy. Makes perfect sense to me."

The release added that Leno then was asked if he would have preferred to stay.

"Well, it's always nice to keep working," said Leno. "Sure it is…But am I extremely grateful. Yeah."

The rest of the release talks about the first time Leno was replaced, when Conan O’Brien took over in 2009. According to the release, Leno tells Kroft, who first interviewed Leno when he took over "The Tonight Show" from Johnny Carson in 1992, that he was shocked.

"I was blindsided…[NBC executives said] 'You're out…' and I went 'okay.'"

The release added "that he never asked NBC why, but the news hurt him like a romantic breakup."

"You know, you have a girl [who] says, 'I don't want to see you anymore.'  Why? You know, she doesn't want to see you anymore, okay?"

NBC's release about the Lauer interview was much briefer.

The release states: "Sincere and engaging, Leno and Fallon open up to Lauer about the legacy of 'The Tonight Show' and how they have handled the passing of the mic. They also discuss the fraternity of late-night comedians and what they do to keep tabs on one another."

How boring. Hopefully, Lauer will also ask Leno about the "60 Minutes" interview.

By the way, Leno's "Tonight Show" remains popular in Western New York on Channel 2, the local NBC affiliate. In the November sweeps, David Letterman’s “Late Show” on CBS affiliate Channel 4 had a narrow one-tenth of a point win in household ratings here. However, Leno was a decisive winner in the 18-49 and 25-54 demos that NBC hopes Fallon will improve nationally. 


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